Obama and family snorkel at Hanauma Bay

Charlie Hamilton
Charlie Hamilton
Jan Hamilton
Jan Hamilton
Mikaela Hamilton
Mikaela Hamilton
Cheryl Ignatz
Cheryl Ignatz

By Leland Kim - bio | email

HANAUMA BAY (KHNL) - Hanauma Bay visitors have a great story to share with family and friends, as they rub shoulders with Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois).  The Hawaii-born senator and his family came to go snorkeling Thursday morning.  Others who were out doing the same thing were surprised and excited to see him.

"It's really thrilling to see a potential president to be," said Cheryl Ignatz, a visitor from Denver, Colorado.  "I'm for him, so yay!"

It was quite a scene Thursday morning.  The senator, his family, secret service agents, and other beachgoers were co-mingling at the bay.  Things were much calmer later in the afternoon.  Senator Obama and his family were long gone, but he's given folks lasting memories and a story of a lifetime.

An early morning drizzle cast a dark cloud over Hanauma Bay, but it wasn't long before a spotlight shined on Hawaii-born Senator Barack Obama.  He and his family came to enjoy some rest and relaxation at the world-famous bay.

"It was quite shocking to see him, getting the scuba gear and turn around and I recognize his voice," said Charlie Hamilton, a Canadian vacationer who spent the morning at Hanauma Bay.

"Hey, buddy," said Obama to a bystander as he was walking by.

That unmistakable voice.

That famous smile.

Despite being surrounded by secret service agents, Obama was approachable.

"On the way out as he walked past, I guess he was getting food for his group," said Hamilton. "I said, 'Would you shake hands with a Canadian?' He says, 'Thank you.'"

"And he did?" asked KHNL.

"And he did.  Yes," said Hamilton.

Charlie and Jan Hamilton are visiting from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, celebrating their 21st wedding anniversary with their children Mikaela, 17; Leanna, 17; and Lisa, 15.

They were struck by how Obama looked like any other dad on the beach.

"He just looked -- he's a dynamic man," said Jan Hamilton. "He just looked really comfortable. He was smiling. His family looked comfortable."

"Him being such a family guy, just the thought of him being a regular guy, being able to come down to a place like this in Hawaii just like my family's here, it just seems, I don't know, it's surreal," added Mikaela Hamilton."

He left to take care of some business, but like most dads, he came back to pick up his family.  And not surprisingly, he attracted a crowd.  Cheryl Ignatz tried to capture the moment.

"I tried really hard and every time I got focused and ready to take his picture, of course he went back in the van," said the vacationer from Denver, Colorado.  "Out of the 45 pictures I took, I probably got at least one picture of his cap and stuff."

Still, those who saw even a slight glimpse of the democratic presidential nominee were grateful for the opportunity.

"It was exhilarating," said Ignatz. "It was a place I thought I'd never be.  It's totally neat. I'm totally behind him and I hope he wins."

"We're real supporters and I'm excited to be close to him," added her husband Michael. "We're getting ready to go to Hanauma Bay to see the fish and we get to see Obama. Pretty amazing."

"We saw the big fish," Cheryl chimed in.

"Yeah, the big fish," agreed Michael.

Hanauma Bay was one of the many stops the senator made Thursday. He is scheduled to fly out Friday morning.